What was your first memory of wine and how did you know you wanted to be a winemaker?
My first wine memory was as a 7 year old living in Germany. My parents took my sister and I to a wine festival in the Mosel. I was more impressed with the Weiss wurst than the wine, but I do remember how much fun my parents were having!
It wasn’t until I got a job at Zaca Mesa in 1979 that I started to learn winemaking. Up until then I had wanted to open a retail wine shop, in the tradition of a classic British wine merchant.
What was your first wine job?
In 1975 I worked as a Harvest laborer at Fortino Winery in Gilroy’s Hecker Pass area, I was 22 years old.
What is your favorite wine?
I make Syrah, so I love the great Northern Rhones. I also love Champagne. But if I had to pick one wine it would be Burgundy, both white and red…I guess that’s two wines!
What was one of the biggest mistakes you made?
When I started Qupé in 1982, I wanted to focus on Syrah. In 1983 and 1984 I also made small amounts of Pinot Noir, but then dropped it in favor of Syrah. If I had continued also making Pinot, my retirement account would be a lot stronger!
Who has been the most influential mentor in your career?
What is something you’d like to share about Santa Maria Wines that many consumers may not know if they’re not familiar with the amazing region?
By far, the single most qualitative component of the Santa Maria Valley is the cool climate. This due to the transverse east-west aspect of the valley.
What are some characteristics in your wine that consumers will find that may be your “stamp” or “trademark”?
Balance, structure and freshness.
What is your favorite after work drink?
I mostly drink wine, and refreshing white wine would be my after work choice. But every so often, usually on Fridays, I like a rye manhattan, perfect and up!
What is your favorite local spot?
Ember in Arroyo Grande.
Tell us something that would surprise people about you?
That I’m an obsessive collector of music, both on CD and vinyl…I’ve never downloaded any digital music!